Nic Cage plays a mild-mannered (ish) teacher who doesn’t quite know what to do when his wife (January Jones) is beaten and raped travelling home one night. He feels helpless. At the hospital he is approached by a mysterious man (Guy Pearce) who seems to know what happened and offers Cage a solution. He works for an organisation that ‘deals’ with thugs like the one who hurt Cage’s wife, carrying out their own brand of justice, whilst the law seem to sit on their arses. He claims he can take care of the ‘situation’ without payment, only asking that Cage do him an undisclosed favour at some point in the future. Cage agrees (letting Pearce know by selecting two specific candy bars from a particular vending machine in the hospital- why? Beats me), and soon regrets it when he finds out what Pearce wants him to do in return. And Pearce’s group don’t much like being refused, either. In fact, they may just be more trouble than the criminal scumbags they promise to exterminate. Harold Perrineau Jr. and Jennifer Carpenter turn up as family friends/colleagues, whilst Xander Berkeley plays a cop.
Another day, another Nic Cage flop, this seriously silly 2011 urban justice film from Aussie journeyman Roger Donaldson (“Smash Palace”, “No Way Out”, “The Recruit”) is something in between “The Star Chamber”, “The Game”, and “Death Wish” (none of which are terribly appealing films). Meanwhile, star Cage once again gives his patented scenery-chewing performance in a film and for a character that doesn’t require such an approach. He’s so excessively mannered and intense that if you stare too close, your eyes will burn from watching him. He’s so rabid here, you might want to get a tetanus shot. Isn’t he an Oscar winner? Yes, but he’s also the guy who delivered the two worst performances in the history of cinema, in “Deadfall” and “Vampire’s Kiss”. Here he’s too little and too much at the same time. As the late, great Sgt. Hulka once said; ‘Lighten up, Francis’. And take a nap while you’re at it, pal. At least his hyper yet somnambulant performance in “Bringing Out The Dead” reflected the wound-up yet burned-out character he played.
The film itself is so goofy from the get-go. Candy bars? Really? “Breakdown” almost made that work as a plot device, but not here. The scene where Cage visits Jones in the hospital in particular is an hilarious piece of overacting from Cage. Apparently his character is a teacher, in what must be the most intense class of all-time. I’d hate to be two minutes late for class, he’d bug out on me! Like the worthless “Trespass” (another flop directed by a journeyman, Joel Schumacher), the film has a bit of pedigree, especially of an Aussie nature (Nicole Kidman and Ben Mendelsohn in “Trespass”, Guy Pearce here, amidst a sea of solid American character actors), but also like “Trespass”, the film is unworthy. Worse still, Jennifer Carpenter, Xander Berkeley (playing a good guy perhaps for the first time ever), and the beautiful January Jones (who gets a bizarre amount of hatred online that I can’t remotely understand) are all horribly underused, and Harold Perrineau’s casting is way too obvious.
Having said that, this is a bit more interesting in “Trespass”, and the Aussie talent here, Guy Pearce is the best thing in the film, and he tries his best. He’s good, the film isn’t, and the only reason you keep watching is because you’re slightly intrigued to find out just what Pearce’s deal is given it seems to get increasingly sillier as the film goes on, and you have to assume there’s something big and worthy of all this elaborate nonsense. You’d be wrong, however.
Donaldson also stages one brief chase scene quite well, though this is far from an action film. It’s not extravagantly awful, just silly and one wonders just what the cast saw in this schlocky nonsense (which, by the way, went under several titles before settling on this computer-generated one, which sounds like a Steven Seagal vehicle to me). Toby Maguire also produced, only God knows why. The ludicrously overblown screenplay is by Robert Tannen (whose only previous credit is 2006’s “Even Money”, with Ray Liotta, Jay Mohr, and Forest Whitaker) and Todd Hickey, from a story by the former. It’s easy to see why it only had a brief stint in theatres in the US and went straight to DVD here in Australia. You’ve seen it before, better, and far less silly.